PORT NECHES —
It’s a good thing the Lady Indians are playing a three-game series. They’ll need every bit of the next two games to advance after New Caney pounded out 15 hits in a 11-1, six inning victory over Port Neches-Groves in Game 1 of a Class 4A bidistrict playoff series at The Reservation Friday.
Game 2 is set for noon Saturday with Game 3, if necessary, set for 6 p.m. Monday at a neutral location.
“(New Caney) hit the ball and came out ready to play,” PN-G Brook Buchanan said. “We didn’t hit the ball. Overall, we had a couple of miscues on defense, but it wasn’t our defense that gave them the 11 runs. They came out and got base hits. Ultimately, we as hitters have to put the ball in play.”
It didn’t look like a rout early on, as PN-G had more scoring opportunities through the first two innings than New Caney. In the bottom of the first, Ricki Gilbert led off with a single and Shelby Valentine drew a one-out walk.
That turned out to be last two PN-G baserunners until the bottom of the fourth. The Lady Indians only mustered five total baserunners in the game against New Caney starting pitcher Katy Potter.
“She’s a good pitcher,” Buchanan said. “She hit her spots and kept it where she needed to. She did a good job.”
New Caney struck first in the top of the third. Left fielder Alyssa Muckleroy hit leadoff single and was moved to second on a bunt to third. At that point, the next three New Caney batters picked up singles, making it 2-0 quickly.
That ended Shelby Valentine’s night. The right-hander threw 2 1/3 innings, allowing five hits, four runs with no walks and no strikeouts.
Reliever Maci Dean came in, but fared no better in the third. After a walk and a fielder’s choice, New Caney second baseman Allison King hit a bloop single to left that scored two more runs, making it 5-0 New Caney.
The Lady Eagles added another run in the fifth and scored five more in the top of the sixth.
“We obviously weren’t as strong on the mound as we normally are,” Buchanan said. “Pitchers have off-games. You don’t want both of them to have off-games on the same night, but sometimes it happens. Overall, they’re great pitchers and have done well this season. I don’t expect anything less this season. They’ll come back, regroup and be ready.”
PN-G did scratch a run out in the bottom of the sixth, with Madison Resch hitting a sacrifice fly to center field, scoring Katie Lee.
But, by that point, it was too little, too late, as the game ended after six due to mercy rules.
The Lady Indians now have to win two straight games against the Lady Eagles to advance to the area round of the playoffs.
Being backed into a corner in need of late heroics is nothing new for this PN-G team, according to Buchanan.
“I told them to go home, get a good night’s sleep and regroup for the morning,” Buchanan said. “We’re playing a series. We just have to play an extra game now. They like to make it interesting. They wait until the ninth inning or the eighth or the seventh, keeping it tied and have close games. I wouldn’t expect anything less from this team.”
New Caney 11, Port Neches-Groves 1
NC 005 015 — 11 15 0
PN-G 000 001 — 1 4 3
Katy Potter and Brittany Mussett; Shelby Valentine, Maci Dean (3) and Ryanne Lunceford. W — Potter. L — Valentine.
Leading hitters: PN-G — Katie Lee 1-3, run scored; Shelby Valentine 1-2, BB; Madison Resch 0-2, RBI; Ryanne Lunceford 1-2; Maci Dean 1-2. NC — Rachael Smith 2-4, 3B, RBI; Mikalya Castro 3-4, 2B, 3 RBIs; Allison King 4-4, 2B, 3 RBIs.
Records: PN-G (18-10); New Caney (21-5).
Next: PN-G at New Caney, noon Saturday.